I find myself going through a script and writing that oh-so-mundane phrase as I read each and every line of text: WTF? or OMG!
I am not proud of this fact. Rather embarrassed as a matter of fact. I feel as if I am trying desperately to fit into a world in which I don’t belong. I am nowhere near the age of a teenager, nor have I recently moved beyond that demographic. But I incessantly borrow the text message phrasing of the younger generation whenever I try to analyze a script.
Most actors make the mistake of reading a script solely for facts. Rarely do they consider the more important consideration: What is your Strong Point of View?
BIG MISTAKE. (Please do yourself the favor of reading the work of Sandford Meisner, Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg, Uta Hagen, Robert Lewis, and a whole of host of excellent theatre artists.)
The character believes many things fervently. But the character knows NOTHING. The character is operating on a strong sense of faith in what cannot be proved.
A script is a continual exchange of points of view. Yes, there are facts, there are undeniable circumstances; but facts are boring, and circumstances are influences which force or propel characters to behave in ways in which they might never have imagined themeselves capable. The character of any play is always behaving with incomplete information. This is what makes the character’s decisions so exciting, so riveting.
There is nothing more boring than the actor solely revealing the facts of the case.
A script is an argument, a debate, something unsettled and yet to be determined. Some kind of fate or outcome always hangs in the balance — what is at stake? [By the way, I hate that phrase, What is at stake (steak)? It always causes me to imagine a large pile of sirloin, one finely cut piece of animal flesh piled on top of the other, eventually rotting in the sun, altogether unappealing. I prefer the question: What are you willing to do to get what you want? And, conversely, what are you NOT willing to do to get what you want? (Please read Uta Hagen’s A Challenge for the Actor.)]
Point of view has to do with opinion. People without opinions, STRONG opinions, are inherently boring in performance. If it doesn’t matter to you, why should it matter to the audience?
Every line is a surprise. At the very least, a potential surprise. A shift in the action. A deviation from what is expected. Each line is a chance for the unexpected.
There is nothing casual, nothing commonplace, nothing normal on stage or in performance that is spoken or enacted. Stories are chronicles of the unexpected, of events FUBAR, of the ever present SNAFU, a continual series of inescapable moments leading to the question: WHAT THE F#$%?!